Benita Chacko

AIM in talks with government; seeks parity in ad spends with newspapers

B Srinivasan, president of the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM), speaks about the new initiatives the association has undertaken to transform the industry.

Last month, the general body of the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) extended the tenure of its incumbent president B Srinivasan, MD of Ananda Vikatan, for another term.

Over the last two years, AIM has worked on some key reforms to transform the industry. These include the launch of a content marketing studio, an association with India Post for swift delivery and a distribution agency accreditation system, among others.

In an interview with afaqs!, Srinivasan talks about some of these efforts and the upcoming plans. AIM has worked towards strengthening the two key revenue sources for magazines - subscriptions and advertising.

"Several stakeholders are involved in ensuring that the magazine reaches the buyer from the printing press. We have taken steps to build confidence among each of these stakeholders for each revenue stream."

These stakeholders include the agents who deliver the magazines, the morning centres, the Department of Post, Indian Railways, among others.

To strengthen the magazine delivery network, AIM has rolled out a distribution agency accreditation system.

"Every individual publisher knows its agents. But the agents of one publication may not be known to another. So, we decided to put our resources together and create an accreditation system. An accredited agent has knowledge about the industry, is capable of paying an advance and of serving the market, and ensuring that there is prompt payment for printed copies."

AIM has currently accredited about 300 agents. It has a process by which every three months, the agents’ performances are evaluated and graded accordingly.

AIM is also creating a vendor subscription booking app. The vendors will book reader subscriptions through it. The pilot will begin in a few regions over the next couple of months. If it works, then it will be expanded nationally.

"In these morning centres, at least 95% of circulation is of newspapers. Only around 5% consists of magazines. While there is a set of people who come to the shops to buy magazines, there are others who want the magazines delivered to their homes. In the times of Swiggy and other home delivery services, we’re going to become redundant if we don’t offer that," Srinivasan adds.

In association with India Post, AIM has also launched a tailor-made service called ‘Magazine Post’ to ensure speedy and assured delivery of magazines to subscribers. It is equipped with the facility of live tracking and SMS alerts. The subscriber gets an alert, when it is posted, and the magazine can be tracked until it reaches the final destination.

"Earlier, there were no checks and controls. Now, we have a four-point tracking mechanism. With this, the subscriber knows that we are not short-changing them by not delivering. We are also in a position to know the challenges and address them. If the copy doesn't reach them, we immediately send another copy," explains Srinivasan.

AIM has also launched a content marketing studio called ‘Dastaan Hub’, which offers branded content solutions across print and digital assets of member publishers to the marketers.

"According to IRS, readers spend thrice the amount of time on magazines as newspapers. Advertisers have stories to tell about their brands. Those stories may not necessarily get conveyed in short form. So, we are seeking to collaborate to help them reach multiple languages, cultures and people. They don’t need to worry about translation, nativity or the local touch," mentions Srinivasan.

"We reach almost 150 million audiences, including print and digital, across India. We also have followers on social media. This makes it a perfect marriage," he adds.

AIM is also in talks with the Indian Railways to sort out logistical issues around delivery.

"There is so much scope for the distribution of magazines within the railway stations, which have been typically controlled by AH Wheeler and Higginbothams. That is not friendly towards the magazine industry. We have been pitching for alternative ways to sell magazines to the passengers. We are hopeful of making some headway this year," says Srinivasan.

AIM has also reached out to the government to seek an equal share in the latter’s ad spends. AIM members have reached out to Anurag Thakur, Minister of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), in this regard.

"He (Thakur) has been apprised of the fact that though magazines have 20% of the entire print readership of India, we get only a percentage point or even lesser of the advertising expenditure by the government and its agencies. We have sought parity in the government ad spends," adds Srinivasan.

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